When God sent his “only begotten Son” he did so in a place aptly named as Bethlehem. As we saw last Sunday, Bethlehem, in the Hebrew language, means “House of Bread.” Historically speaking, the city itself was nothing to write home about. It wasn’t a preferred travel destination spot nor was it, “metro” or “cosmo” in any sense of the word. Neither did it carry any significance; militarily, economically, or politically. The lyrics of the Christmas carol we sang a moment ago, “O little town of Bethlehem” paints the picture of how irrelevant Bethlehem really was in the 1st century.
Biblical history, however, reveals that some pretty significant did happen at Bethlehem. Rachel, the wife of the patriarch Jacob, was buried there and for all of you hopeless romantics out there, the “House of Bread” was the place where mover-and-shakers Ruth and Boaz fell in love. The psalmist David was born there (John 7:42) and while he grew to be a precocious, leathered-lung shepherd boy, Bethlehem became one of his favorite places to tend, fend, and feed his flock. He eventually was anointed king there by the prophet Samuel. From then on, Bethlehem was dubbed the “City of David.”Nevertheless, Bethlehem’s former fame would be surpassed only by its future greatness. 800 years before it happened the prophet Micah from Moresheth-Gath predicted (5:2)
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
The “One” who was to come forth from Bethlehem, whose origin is from old and ancient days, is the preexistent Jesus Christ, the Son of God and God the Son, whose birth we celebrate tonight.
“The Bread of Life”
The Bethlehem connection is far deeper than Jesus being born there, however. The One born in the “House of Bread” would go on to become the “Bread of Life.” Listen to Jesus’ BHAC along with his BAP in John 6:35, 48
I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry…
Jesus made this “Bread of Life” claim in reference to another “bread” in Scripture, namely, manna bread! Manna (lit: “what is it?”) was this curious bread-like substance that God, for over forty years, rained down on the nomadic Israelites as they traveled from Egypt to the Promised Land. However, just like the heaping of Christmas goodies we’ve been munching on all Christmas Season, the manna bread the Israelites consumed was only a temporary solution to a temporary problem, namely physical hunger. Now whether we eat to live or live to eat, or both, we, just like my snack-a-holic-puppy Crosby, are eating machines by nature and obviously, we need to be. However, as Jesus pointed out in places like John 6:31, 58
31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, `He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”
58 I am the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.
Like the manna bread God sent down from heaven to take away the Israelites’ physical hunger, God sent Jesus down from heaven to take away our spiritual hunger. What caused this spiritual hunger? According to places like Isaiah 59:2 and Romans 3:23 this hunger began the moment, we, like the social distance requirements of the CDC, spiritually distanced ourselves from God because of our sin. We were originally created to live eternally with, and in, God. However, the moment sin entered into the universe and into us, this spiritual distance occurred and simultaneously created within our souls a “raging and inextinguishable hunger” (Henry Scougal) one which drives every one of our conscious and unconscious impulses. Whether we realize it or not, we are starving for God and human experience has clearly demonstrated that nothing on the earth, from the earth, or in the earth, i.e., no person, place, or thing, no matter how much, how many, or how often, can take away our spiritual hunger and fill our souls.
Good News on the Food Front
However, our loving Heavenly Father “so loved the world” (John 3:16) he sent the “Bread of Life” not only to save and forgive us but also to close the relational distance between us. To eat of the “Bread of Life” simply means to live in a harmonious, dynamic, interactive, and loving relationship with our Him through Jesus Christ. Once we start the “eating” our spiritual hunger is satiated forever! This is why Jesus said it was impossible for us to live, “on physical bread alone” (Matthew 4:4) and counseled in John 6:27
Do not live for the bread that perishes, but for the bread that endures for eternal life, which I will give you.
Who has seen the recent Snickers commercial with its humorous, albeit accurate tagline, “You are not you when you’re hungry?” I don’t know about you but when I’m hungry, I get snarky, shaky, and some would say, a bit flaky. Likewise, you are not you when you are spiritually hungry. Symptoms of spiritual hunger may include hopelessness and fearfulness, joylessness and lovelessness among others. But the “Bread of Life” wants to fill us with all of these wonderful things plus give us the best dessert of all, eternal life (by the way, his church is his spiritual restaurant so come by weekly for some fine dining). I digress (must be hungry lol), but the good news of Christmas is that we no longer have to eat the crumbs of the world or the junk food of our culture. The “Bread of Life” born in the “House of Bread” is the best of all spiritual diets so let us now, on this glorious Christmas Eve, “prepare our hearts” a room for him.